Phil Parker (tigertoy) wrote,
Phil Parker

Book review: The Execution Channel

Today's book review is The Execution Channel by Ken MacLeod.

This is a near-future thriller with enough violence and explosions to appeal to Hollywood.  Unfortunately, it's a very complex and chaotic story, and it's deliberately told so that the reader can't tell what's really happening; we keep thinking we know what really happened and then realize that it was really something different.  I finished the book a few days ago, and didn't write my review immediately, and by the time I'm writing this, I can hardly remember anything except that I was confused.  I think there was supposed to be a point in the ending there, but I was too punch-drunk from the repeated changes to have gotten said point.

It was kinda fun watching it go by, but the more I try to remember and think about it, the less I like it.  5 out of 10.

****  PLOT SUMMARY  --  SPOILERS  ****

The action mostly centers around three characters: James Travis, a security systems programmer, Alec, his son who's in the British Army, and Roisin, his daughter who's a peace activist.  James is so upset by what the government has become that he became a spy for France.  The book opens with Roisin witnessing and photographing a peculiar device at an American base on Scottish soil.  She gets a tip from Alec that they're about to be hit by security, so they're already running when Leuchars is hit by a nuke.  The government adds 1 and 1 and gets 37, concluding that the Travises are the core of an international conspiracy.  Some other terrorism happens that they get blamed for, and James and Roisin are both running.  Alec, being in the army, is caught and dies in interrogation.  The mysterious Execution Channel, which gets footage of killings from all over the world due to compromised firmware in just about all video cameras, broadcasts the death.  A shadowy disinformation network tries to plant a story about some new physics which explains UFOs, only it may actually be true.  Leuchars was not nuked; one of the new devices was stolen by the Americans/Brits from the French/Chinese/Korean cabal, and the French made it self destruct.  The world appears to be about to go up in a global nuclear exchange when several Chinese cities are vaporized without a trace, suggesting that the US has a superweapon which makes nuclear missiles a trivial joke.  But then the missing cities are found on the surface of the moon or rapidly leaving the solar system, powered by the new physics.  Leuchars was not nuked; one of the new devices was stolen by the Americans/Brits from the French/Chinese/Korean cabal, and the French made it self destruct.

The world doesn't blow up at the end.  It's not exactly clear where things are headed, or even where they are, but apparently the surviving Travises have managed to convince enough sufficiently important people that they weren't really responsible that they're off the hook.

Trying to remember it any more specifically than that just makes my head hurt.  The book wasn't good enough to go through it again taking careful notes.
Tags: book review, ken macleod, sf
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